Personalized book company started weeks before COVID-19 hit looks to inspire children to read

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- With all the electronic screen distractions around today, getting a child to sit down and read a book can be difficult.

But a Wake County man thinks he has come up with a way to get kids to read...oddly, it also starts with a screen.

The Toggle Book Factory is a way for your child to custom build a book that's designed to capture their imagination and help them to learn to love reading.

"I've got two young kids of my own. And I'm seeing how attracted to screens they are and how hard it is, you know, to get them to not play video games or be on TV and read books." Marc Mailand said.

Mailand is the mastermind behind Toggle Book Factory.

This project started years ago when he and his son wrote a story together, a story designed to help the boy overcome nightmares.

After revising it numerous times and then printing out a final version, Mailand said his son was so connected to the story he kept it under his pillow.

"I realized, 'Hey, I think kids will be more invested in stories that they helped create," he recalled.

The process of building a book begins with what is essentially an online video game.

Your kid goes to the Toggle Book Factory website where a robot named QwerKee helps the child build a custom book.

At the beginning of the process QwerKee says, "Here at our magical workshop, robots like me, help kids like you, build books."

And then the options begin, Mailand noted saying, "Kids can choose the color of their book, they can pick out their clothes, they can put themselves in the story, and they can even make choices that affect the story. So when these kids get these books, they're, you know, they're fully invested in they've got things in them that they love."

And Toggle Book Factory offers the ultimate in personalization with QwerKee asking, "You know what would make this book really special? If we could put your name in the book."

If the child can't handle typing in a name or writing a special dedication QwerKee says, "Ask a big person to help you."

The child gets to pick a book ranging from a Christmas story about "Jingle Bot" to a bedtime tale with "Kitty Kitty Bot" to a magic show with "Presto Bot" and other storylines, but they don't know the full plot until the hard copy of the book arrives at your home 10 days to two weeks after ordering.

"When they build a book, they don't really know how their choices play into the story until they get that book," Mailand said adding, "And we do that on purpose to create a curiosity in their minds and so when they read that book, they're very motivated to get to the end of the story to figure out how their choices affected that story."

Mailand said the surprise ending involving your child also helps Toggle Book Factory achieve its primary goal of encouraging kids to read.

"When kids see themselves in books, kids that aren't normally inclined to read, it sometimes is enough to help them turn the corner and be more interested in their books."

And diversity is also an important element of the books Mailand said, "We can still serve the masses, and also serve, you know, the minority groups out there too that don't often get to see themselves in books."

Mailand still can't believe he started his business during a worldwide health and now economic crisis.

It launched in January and when the pandemic hit a few weeks later, he realized it would be tough to get money from investors.

He and his wife had a heart to heart.

"We both decided to take money out of my 401K and go for it," Mailand said.

So now Mailand like many other small business owners is looking for a Carolina Comeback.

He hopes his product will attract attention from parents and kids looking for a new adventure while continuing to isolate from the pandemic.
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